Carbondale Middle School students explore Roaring Fork watershed with their fingertips |

Carbondale Middle School students explore Roaring Fork watershed with their fingertips

Carbondale Middle School is hosting the Mobile Earth and Science Observatory (MESO), a traveling science and ecology education program this week.

MESO, formed and sponsored by the National Space Science and Technology Institute and the Pikes Peak Observatory, travels around the state and sets up mobile labs on a number of topics.

On Tuesday, MESO educators Eddie Goldstein, Geoff Lawrence and founder Dimitri Klebe took small groups of students through different stations to explain how watersheds work as part of the environmental education lab.

Students started the week Monday with an interactive water assembly. Wednesday will be about dissolved oxygen measurements, Thursday will be water purification day, and Friday will be about water conservation.

MESO went beyond the basics of watersheds to explain the Roaring Fork watershed specifically, which offers students a deeper perspective to the land they live in every day and helps solidify the geographical concepts.

The students saw watersheds demonstrated on textured elevation maps of the Roaring Fork watershed, saw the entire Colorado Rocky Mountain range on a large elevation map, and created their own watershed in MESO’s augmented reality sandbox.

“It makes so much more sense when you look at it physically,” one student commented.

The AR sandbox is powered by an Xbox which reads the height of the sandscape and projects different colors back onto the sand to illustrate different elevations with colors. Students sculpted mountains, valleys and rivers, and by waving their hands above an area could make it “rain” and watch blue colors representing water run down the sand hills into the low points of the diorama.

The goal of the watershed presentation is to show students that the health of a river is more than just the water in the streambed.

“We get them to appreciate that you really need to be concerned about the entire watershed, even if you live in Glenwood Springs or Carbondale. To be concerned about your river, you need to be concerned about a huge area,” Lawrence said.

MESO has a number of program units, but the environmental education lab’s visit to Carbondale was made possible from a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant that allows the group to visit areas that are underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.

“My purpose is to expose students to professionals in STEM areas and the cool science equipment that we don’t have access to,” eighth-grade science teacher Cora Carballeira said.

The week is not just for middle school students. On Thursday evening, CMS invites the community to experience the highlights of the MESO program at the Science Festival, starting at 6 p.m.

“We’ll have MESO, and I’ve invited anyone in the community who has water-related interests,” Carballeira said.

The Roaring Fork Conservancy, a Forest Service hydrologist, anglers and river recreation professionals will also come to talk to students Thursday, Carballeira said.

The evening will culminate — weather permitting — in a community stargazing party.

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